Local branches of the embattled Democratic Party have called on the party patron President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take over the party and serve as its leader.
A number of chairmen of the party’s provincial branches said that Yudhoyono was the best candidate to lead the party and that the Democratic Party’s extraordinary congress in Bali, slated for March 29 and March 30 should only be held to inaugurate his leadership.
“At the grassroots level, members want Pak SBY to become chairman of the party,” chairman of the Papua branch of the Democratic Party Lukas Enembe said as quoted by Antara news wire.
Lukas said that he told Yudhoyono about the proposal during a preparatory meeting for the congress at the President’s private residence in Cikeas, West Java, on Sunday.
Lukas said that Yudhoyono did not directly respond to his proposal.
A similar proposal was also made by the chairman of the Southeast Sulawesi provincial branch Muhammad Endang.
He said that Yudhoyono was the best figure to lead the Democratic Party out of its current turbulence.
Endang also said that during the planned extraordinary congress, the selection of the new party chairman should be made through acclamation and that party members should only endorse Yudhoyono’s choice.
He said that the meeting between Yudhoyono and chairmen of the party’s provincial branches had also come up with a tentative agreement that candidates vying for the party leadership must hold a membership card, have enough political experience and must be nominated and endorsed by a majority of congress participants who had voting rights.
Earlier, many regional party chapters backed the candidacy of First Lady Ani Yudhoyono.
Head of the Democratic Party faction at the House of Representatives, Nurhayati Ali Assegaf, said that there were at least two reasons Ani should be nominated.
First, she served as party deputy chairperson in 2004, so she has the capacity.
Second, local party chapters were impressed by Ani when she accompanied her husband on presidential visits to the regions.
Party officials however have also hinted that Yudhoyono would propose “a senior party member who is highly regarded by party members” and that he would not propose members of his family.
Speculation was rife that Yudhoyono would nominate a senior party member who currently serves as a minister.
There are five ministers who are members of the Democratic Party; Cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises Minister Syariefuddin Hasan; Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin; Youth and Sports Minister Roy Suryo; Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Jero Wacik; and Transportation Minister EE Mangindaan.
Non-party members who have also been tapped to become the party leader include Army chief of staff Gen. Pramono Eddhie Wibowo, outgoing Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan.
A survey by the National Survey Institute, released on Sunday, found that 24.2 percent of respondents preferred Dahlan to lead the Democratic Party, followed by Mahfud at 15.4 percent.
Ani and Speaker of the House of Representatives Marzuki Alie came in third and fourth position with 8.5 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively.
The approval ratings for Jero and Yudhoyono’s son Edhie “Ibas” Baskoro Yudhoyono were 1.9 percent and 1.6
The survey interviewed 1,230 respondents in the country’s 33 provinces.
The requirement that a candidate for the Democratic Party leadership must be a card-carrying member of the party would likely prevent the rise of Dahlan and Mahfud.